On this Fourth of July, photographer Wing Young Huie reminds us of what it means to be an American, taking time to remember the greatness of this dynamic cultural and social mix of strangers in a strange land.
“Growing up in Minnesota, ya know, people would ask me, ‘Where are you from?’ And I would say, ‘I’m from Duluth.’ People would say, ‘No, no, where are you really from?’ And I’d say, ‘Really, I’m from Duluth.’
It’s an innocent question, but implies a lot. It’s assumed that I must be a foreigner. I think there are times where my family, or myself, we felt that I wasn’t a true American, wasn’t a true Minnesotan, growing up in the land of Lake Woebegone. But, the realities of what I am and how I’m perceived bumps up into the perceptions of what Minnesotans are, on a regular basis.
So, for hyphenated people like me, there are hundreds of thousands of people who bump into this, the myths of the state. So, in a way, what I’m trying to do is create a new iconography. One that fills a gap between the perception of who we are and the reality.”
The child of Lake Superior’s shores spent more than four years taking thousands of photographs of a dynamic range of people who inhabit a stretch of six miles of road in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Titled the University Avenue Project, hundreds of Huie’s images became an urban street installation being displayed in storefronts, on the sides of buildings, in windows of houses. If you ever question whether the great American experiment lives on, Huie’s work will challenge your assumptions and most likely give you a sobering bit of hope.
photo: Wing Young Huie